A number of the major poultry producers are reporting that there was glut in the local market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a consequence, sales declined by about 50% and prices fell to their lowest ever, which in turn forced a cutback in production which will now mean prices will begin to increase.
Chicken is the poor man’s meat. The price of chicken is below that of both beef and pork.
Beef sells for around $400 per lb; pork $500 per lb and mutton and duck can reach as high as $900 per lb.
Poor people therefore settle for chicken. It is the most affordable meat. Fish such as Bangamary can be retailed for about $120 per lb but snapper and trout are far more expensive.
Poor people therefore are huge chicken eaters. It is their main source of protein.
Chicken has been retailing recently for as low as $200-240 per lb. plucked on account of the falloff in demand. A glut developed because demand fell by as much as 50%.
This is the real effect of the COVID-19 and election impasse. Purchasing power has diminished in the economy. When poor people’s ability to purchase chicken could lead to a decline in sales by 50%, it shows the degree of suffering inflicted as a result of the elections crisis and the Coronavirus pandemic.
The closure of in-house dining in restaurants cannot result in a 50% decline in chicken sales. Poor people cannot afford to dine out. So the fall in demand for chicken is a direct result of a cutback on personal consumption by the poor. And when the poor cutback on eating, it means that things are extremely tough for them.
This is the reality which the Coalition has refused to accept. The APNU+AFC is a middle-class government and it is out of touch, woefully so, with the suffering of the poor.
Just the other day, a man turned up at a construction site begging for a job. The man explained that he has children and that he wants to work so that he can put food on his table. He was almost in tears. The contractor had no vacancies but he was so moved by the man’s desperation for a job that he called the foreman and ordered him to find something for the man to do because he cannot in good conscience send the man away.
This is happening all across the country. Poor people are finding it tough.
In response, the government continues to live in its own fantasy land. It speaks about macro-economic numbers which show that the economy has been growing and is expected to grow by about 40% this year, 10 times the average growth rate over the past five years.
But that growth was supposed to be 84%. It too has contracted by half and it is taking place far out in the oil fields in the Stabroek block. It will only provide a few ripples to the economy. It is not going to put food on the table of the poor who are begging for jobs.
The longer it takes to settle the election conundrum, the more the poor will suffer. The more the Coronavirus pandemic response is mismanaged, the longer it will take for the economy to be restored to some normalcy and therefore the more prolonged will be the suffering of the poor.
Poor people are having it hard. The lines outside the money transfer agencies are becoming longer. But not everyone has a relative or a friend overseas who can afford to send a ‘freck’ to help tide the poor over until the riggers stop their games and until the mismanagement of the Coronavirus response is regularized.
Macro-economic variables such as GDP growth is not going to ease the suffering of the poor people. Instead of Jordonomics – which is based on taxing people and excessive bureaucratic spending – what the leaders should do is look at the chickenomics.
It will tell them the true story of suffering in the country and the need for immediate interventions to boost personal incomes of the poor.
Now is the time – if there ever was – for cash grants to poor households. Do it now!
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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